Rhys Patchell was influential for Cardiff Blues in their 23-13 win on Sunday over Ulster.
The Arms Park was treated to a Rhys Patchell master class, as the Blues fly-half almost single-handedly destroyed Ulster with a virtuoso performance that oozed class.
Patchell was superb both out of touch and with ball in hand, landing three penalties and a conversion to put the Welsh region out of sight. However, it was the fly-half's 72nd minute try that ended Ulster's hopes on Sunday.
When that effort was followed up by a 77th-minute score from Blues centre Aled Summerhill, the Irishmen were dead and buried. Ulster were marginally ahead after a turgid first half and were well in control of the contest when Irish winger Craig Gilroy got over for their only try.
That effort was converted by Ulster's fly-half Paddy Jackson, who also landed two penalties. But Cardiff refused to be beaten, and staged the most remarkable of comebacks, inspired by star man Patchell. While Ulster stay fourth in the table, their play-off ambitions are looking precarious after another disappointing outing.
It was an untidy start, with both sides struggling to hold onto the ball in good conditions. Blues showed a willingness to run the ball early on, Patchell ably pulling the strings. The Blues’ fly-half had a good chance to open his side's account on seven minutes, but missed the straightforward kick. Ulster came back well in the next few minutes, using their continuity game to good effect as they went through the phases.
Jackson was gifted a decent chance of his own on 18 minutes, but the poor kicking form continued as he sliced his kick. The Blues, for their part, had a relatively solid attacking platform; Tomos Williams delivering quick ball and big ball carriers like Josh Turnbull getting over the gain line.
But it was Ulster that belatedly broke the deadlock on 32 minutes with a Jackson penalty after Cardiff were penalised for hands in a ruck. The fly-half doubled Ulster's account four minutes later to give the Irish club a 6-0 lead, albeit against the run of play. It looked like a decent enough half for Ulster then, if tedious for the spectators, but the visitors conceded right on the half-time whistle after being caught offside. Patchell nailed the penalty to reduce Ulster's lead to 6-3.
It was Cardiff that got on the score sheet first in the second half when Patchell nailed a penalty to level proceedings. Ulster hit back immediately, though. Ruan Pienaar established field position in the Blues 22 and from there Ulster centre Sammy Arnold took the ball at pace, drawing his man, before putting winger Gilroy over in the corner.
Jackson converted to put Ulster 13-6 ahead. Blues full-back Dan Fish seemed to score on 58 minutes when he made a lightning break, but just as he appeared to get over, Gilroy saved the day with a wonderful covering tackle.
The Blues managed to get three points back on 65 minutes when Patchell slotted another penalty, but it seemed scant reward after the hosts had spent the previous five minutes pounding the Ulster line. They then proceeded to give away a kickable penalty barely a minute later, but Jackson missed in front of the posts when he could have put the game to bed. Patchell, in turn, incredibly missed a penalty of his own on 69 minutes when Ulster were penalised at the breakdown.
The fly-half made amends on 72 minutes, however, when he received an inside ball from Rey Lee-Lo who breached Ulster's defence with a powerful run before putting his fly-half over for his try. Patchell converted to give the Blues a 16-13 lead. The win was sealed when Summerhill went over for a late try, converted by Patchell, capping a rotten afternoon for Ulster.
Tries: Patchell, Summerhill
Cons: Patchell 2
Pens: Patchell 3
Pen: Jackson 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Aled Summerhill, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Taufa’ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith
Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Sammy Arnold, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson (c), 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Bronson Ross, 2 John Andrew, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Roger Wilson, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Rory Scholes
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)